England, 1617, and Susanna Cobbett, teenage daughter of a powerful Worcester landowner, is found dead in a gloomy woodland pond which has an evil reputation as the Witching Pool. The girl is said to have drowned herself, driven to madness by a local widow named Agnes Mason, who is arrested on a charge of witchcraft. If found guilty, she will hang at the next Assizes.
But Justice Belstrang, shrewd ex-magistrate and sceptic, does not believe a word of it. And when Agnes’s family beg him to help, he finds himself caught up in an ever-darkening mystery.
Another death follows: that of Susanna’s lover, a young shepherd. He too is reported to have drowned himself at the Witching Pool, unable to face life without his beloved. But from local woodsman Ned Berritt, Belstrang learns there’s more to it – and when Berritt too is found dead soon after, he becomes even more determined to uncover the truth.
The mystery grows murkier, however, as Belstrang is pitted against his old rival Justice Standish.
But Belstrang’s stubbornness and passion for justice drives him on. With the help of his friend and fellow-sceptic Doctor Boyd, he unravels the terrible crimes that have lain hidden behind the doors of the great manor of Ebbfield.
Belstrang must confront and apprehend his suspect – and risk his own life in the attempt.